Love That Made It Through The Darkest Hour

One of the nice things about blogging is being able to go back later and read what I wrote. It gives me a chance to process and ponder, and to sometimes find an unexpected solution to whatever problem I’m facing at the time.

A few days ago, I wrote that if today’s Ron were to meet today’s Carolyn, we would likely not be attracted to each other. That got me thinking back to when we did first admit that we were attracted to each other. Even then, Ron was not an effusive personality. I remember that I thought he always seemed so sad, and I was determined to shower him with platonic love. Oddly enough, I think Aubrey sensed the same thing. One night we were all gathered over at Ron’s (and his roommates’) house to watch a movie. Ron was sitting in a chair and an adorable six year old Aubrey went and climbed in his lap. She didn’t ask, she just decided that Ron’s lap was where she wanted to sit.

A few months before, they had bonded over The Powerpuff Girls. It was one of the few tv shows that Ron liked to watch. Of course, Aubrey LOVED Bubbles. Aubrey could easily have played a live action Bubbles, with her bright blonde hair, pale skin, and huge blue eyes. Aub was as bouncy and playful as Bubbles, too.

I also loved The Powerpuff Girls, but I am more like Buttercup; bitchy and sarcastic. I know that my bitchy sarcasm is the one thing about me that Ron always loves, mainly because he thinks it’s hilarious. He doesn’t mind it because it is rarely directed at my family in a mean way…it’s simply my sense of humor.

Much like Aubrey, I too had to climb in Ron’s lap (many months later) to make him realize that I liked him. I had spent a week fixing his favorite foods, tucking him into bed on our sofa, and rubbing lotion into his mutilated hands (he picks at them when he’s stressed). I knew that he liked me, but he wasn’t about to admit it. With Ron, I had to make EVERY first move. He was painfully shy, and really had no idea how to even relate to a woman, but I was different. I cut him a LOT of slack, because I understood that he didn’t know about flowers and chocolate and romantic gestures. I still do cut him slack, because I know it’s not in his nature to frivolously spend money.

Anyway, the more I thought about how different we are now from how we were then, I realized that I am the one who has changed. For some crazy reason, I expected that Ron would know by now what I want, like, or need; things like buying me a Christmas present, or giving me a random hug. But that is not who Ron is. Even now, 11 years after we first kissed, I still have to take the lead.

After last Friday’s debacle with the car, and when he admitted that he didn’t want to touch me when I’m sick, we had a serious talk. He said that he meant he was afraid that he was going to hurt me by holding me when I’m sore. I think I need to put a giant sign above our bed that says, “Hugs don’t hurt!” I flat out told him that I need him to hug, cuddle me, and hold my hand. Of course, that still doesn’t change the fact that Ron doesn’t think about such things. However, if I do initiate a hug or if I specifically ask him to hold me, he does.

Having a chronic illness sucks the life right out of a relationship. Now we’re having to really work to put the life back in. I think for a while, I got to a place where I was too tired to ask for hugs or a kiss, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t want a hug or a kiss. Now I’m remembering that I have to ask. I know in a normal relationship, after 11 years, a person shouldn’t have to ask, but what the hell is normal, anyway? Just like Ron has had to adjust to my being sick, I have to make adjustments for who he is.

Is this a solution to all of our problems? No. But it might be a solution to ONE of our problems, that could potentially lead to other solutions. Either way, it’s worth a try to see if things get better.

“But you do not give up so easily
That’s how I know you won’t surrender me
You rise and meet the day
It’s all I need, it’s all I need to know, it’s all I need to know

And I love you all the time
I had always feared that some gloomy ingratitude would seize me.”

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I’m Becoming Untouchable

Yesterday was a really crappy day. It was supposed to be a good day…I had scheduled massages for me and for Aubrey at 10:15am. At Christmas, the massage therapy school sold 3 packs for $84 so I bought one. I usually get a two hour “Bliss” and Aub gets a one hour “Wellness,” so it seemed perfect.

Unfortunately, I had THE WORST massage therapist EVER! I knew it was going to be bad just from the way he walked and talked. He looked like Mr. Spock, and his whole manner was hurried and harried. I hoped that didn’t mean that he’d massage the same way (but I’ve found that it often does), and I was wrong. Instead of his movements being slow and rhythmic, he was sort of slap happy, and just randomly rubbed in circles on my back.

I admit that part of the reason I wanted a massage was just to feel another human being touch me. I wanted to feel human myself, worthy of touch. Mr. Spock gave me the same feeling I was trying to get away from; that my skin is disgusting, something to touch as quickly as possible and then get away. In other words, exactly how my husband makes me feel.

Meanwhile, since Aubrey’s massage was only an hour, she went up to the Starbucks where Matt works, which is just about 500 yards away from the massage school. She was relaxed and happy (she had a great therapist), drinking her chai tea and surfing the net on my tablet. However, as she was pulling out of the parking lot to turn left to come get me, she rammed into a car that was in the center lane. They were going too fast, but it was still considered Aubrey’s fault, since she was entering the street from a parking lot. Fortunately, she WAS really relaxed and loose, so when the car hit and the airbags went off, she wasn’t tensed, which is what really causes injury (this is why alcoholics are often perfectly fine when they are in car accidents).

I had no idea what was going on as I waited to be picked up. An hour after I was finished, I saw Ron pull in to the parking lot, and I immediately assumed that Aubrey’s car wouldn’t start, since she’s been having problems with it. I asked him if her car wouldn’t start and he said yes; when I asked what was wrong, he said, “Her car is no more.” By then we were pulling up to the parking lot where the police and tow truck were gathered. I saw Aubrey standing alone, crying. I knew that she knew she wasn’t going to be in trouble, and that we were just glad she was okay, but I also knew that she was counting on that car to last five more months, until she leaves for New England.

I got out of Ron’s car and ran up to her and gave her a hug, which made her cry harder. Aubrey (in typical model fashion) is gorgeous when she cries, because her blue eyes get bluer and bigger and her skin becomes even more pale, which makes her hair look even more red. She stood there with her sunglasses holding back her hair, clutching her tablet and tea, and looked graceful and perfect in spite of her tears. So of course, the police officers were super nice to her, as was the tow driver. Aub can seem deceptively vulnerable, which works in her favor in such situations. She truly was upset about her car, but more of a “mad” upset, not a “sad” upset.

Once the tow truck was instructed where to take the car and all the relevant papers were signed, I offered to take Ron back to work and deal with the aftermath. Since he had a ton of stuff going on, he agreed. When I dropped him off, he put his arm halfway around my shoulder for about five seconds, and then said, “Thank you. I’m glad I could be there for you both today.” I was stunned into silence. Yes, I did greatly appreciate that he was there when Aubrey needed him, but there was no, “I love you, I’m sorry that sucks?”

It made me sad, but I didn’t have time to talk about it because I had to take Aub to deal with the car stuff. I just left, but I knew that we would have to talk later, and I was dreading it.

Once Aub was settled, the car was dealt with, and she was at work, I went to pick up Ron. I didn’t confront him until we were home. I told him about my crappy massage and why it was crappy, and said it was the kind of massage that he would give me. He said he doesn’t like massages. I said I wasn’t talking about getting them (he doesn’t like them because his skin is super sensitive), I was talking about giving them. He said he didn’t like giving them, either. I told him that I knew that, but that didn’t explain his attitude about not touching me. He said it was because I was sick and tired (I’ve been in a fibromyalgia flare for a while, and the pinched nerve in my sacro-iliac is inflamed yet again); I explained that when I’m sick and tired is when I most need to be held and cuddled…

This is where the bomb dropped; Ron said he doesn’t like touching someone who is sick. I quietly reminded him that I’m not contagious. He said he knew that, but he still didn’t like it. Finally, a full out confession to confirm my suspicions. It wasn’t all in my head…he truly was avoiding touching me.

I was hurt and angry. I stopped talking and started reading my book, and then fell asleep (it was 6:30 pm). That’s been my standard response lately…As soon as Aubrey leaves for work, or when I realize it’s 6pm, I lay down and go to sleep so I can avoid my husband. This saves me from having to chat with him, and is a coping mechanism for his not touching me. Sad, I know, but it’s much better than an overdose of meds, which is what happened a year and a half ago. I guess that means that therapy is working, at least.

I’m incredibly sad, but worse, I’m angry, bitter, hurt, and I want to lash out and say mean things. Honestly, he doesn’t deserve that. He is still kind and caring, even if he’s not loving and affectionate. I don’t want to punish him for something he can’t help.

I don’t know what’s going to happen now. I don’t know if I can continue to live in this situation, or if he can, either. I don’t think this is something that more marriage counseling can solve. At the best, counseling will get us through the next nine months, which is how long it will take for us to get out of debt. That’s all I can focus on now.

“Contempt loves the silence
It thrives in the dark
With fine winding tendrils
That strangle the heart

They say that promises
Sweeten the blow
But I don’t need them
No, I don’t need them

I’ve been treated so wrong
I’ve been treated so long
As if I’m becoming untouchable

I’m a slow dying flower
Frost killing hour
The sweet turning sour
And untouchable

Oh, I need
The darkness
The sweetness
The sadness
The weakness
Oh, I need this

I need
A lullaby
A kiss goodnight
Angel sweet
Love of my life
Oh, I need this”

Take Your Records, Take Your Freedom

A funny thing happened day before yesterday. With the single uttered phrase from my husband of, “You should have married Leigh’s husband, Bill,” I suddenly stopped caring about making this house pretty. For the entire time we’ve lived here, I’ve strived to make this place look like a home (and Leigh succeeded in my living room). Now that I don’t see it as my home, but as my husband’s home where I’m temporarily living, I find I’m no longer looking up at the bedroom ceiling with a burning desire to cover it in beadboard.

I’m still going to work on my office/den/bedroom/studio space, since my efforts are now concentrated on paring everything down. There is absolutely no reason why all of my craft supplies can’t fit in my large walk-in closet (with the exception of my yarn, but I have a plan for that). That means I can toss the bookshelves, the coffee table, the armoire, and the buffet. The room will have two Hylis shelves from IKEA, my Lillberg hack daybed, my large wood dresser from my bedroom (to hold my yarn!), two club chairs, the sewing machine desk, and a drop leaf table. The TV can sit on top of the dresser in the center of the room so we can move it to watch from the bed or from the chairs. So simple!

I had Aubrey take all of the storage books back to the library. Instead of focusing on finding more room for all my stuff, instead I’m focusing on getting rid of enough stuff for it to fit in the space I have. When it comes time to haul it across the country, it will drastically cut the cost, and since my next place will likely be very tiny, having less stuff is a necessity.

The reason this whole change in thought process is funny is because for years, Ron has hated my desire to improve our living space. He really doesn’t care how crappy the place looks as long as it’s not cluttered. Now he’s finally managed to kill that desire dead in its tracks.  I’m somewhat curious to see if he’s happier when there is no art on the walls, the bookcases are empty, and all the accent pieces like my antique desk are gone.

When I first met Ron, he was rooming in a three bedroom house with two other guys. Ron paid extra for the largest bedroom because it had its own bathroom. His room was absolutely barren. He had a bed (no headboard, just a frame with a boxspring and mattress), a desk, a filing cabinet, an office chair, and a bookcase. That was it. I think he’s forgotten that he asked me to decorate it for him (and this was LOOOONG before we started dating), because he hated it.

When he moved from Tucson to South Texas, we went to IKEA and he let me pick out furniture for his apartment. I remember that year was the 2002 Winter Olympics, so he bought a TV just so I could watch it. He had an entertainment center, a sofa and two chairs, a dining table and four chairs, a bed, a desk, and a bookshelf. He had one set of dishes with a set of glasses, and a few pots and pans that he brought from Arizona. It was still spartan, but at least the red sofa and blue chairs gave it a little color.

I retained very little from my divorce. I owned a loveseat that I’d had when I married my second husband, the kids had their beds, and I got our breakfast table and four chairs. Aubrey had her antique drop front secretary desk and Matt had a cheap particle board desk that I bought at a garage sale for ten bucks. We had a toaster oven, one set of dishes, and a few pots and pans.

I don’t know if that’s where we were happiest because we lived in two separate apartments, or if it was because we had just started dating (we’d known each other for three years by that point), or if it was because Ron was actually TRYING to be a part of our family. We had a nightly ritual of Ron making hot tea for everyone, then we’d all sit in the living room and chat before the kids went to bed. Half the time we’d eat at his place and half at mine, but we cooked almost all the time.

I miss that time period; Ron has since realized that he hated doing all that stuff and was forcing himself to “want to” cuddle on the couch and watch HGTV or TLC. He knows that he did both of us a disservice by trying to pretend to be someone he’s not. He’s not the person that I fell in love with, but in all honesty, I’m not the person he expected me to be, either. When we first got together, I wasn’t sick and exhausted all the time. I had all the symptoms of Interstitial Cystitis, but they hadn’t reached their worst point yet, and I certainly didn’t have a diagnosis. I was a software designer and made shit tons of money. So yeah, I was a different person, too. However, unlike Ron, I wasn’t faking it, and I didn’t change of my own desire…change was forced on me.

I can’t blame him for not loving me. If today’s Ron met today’s Carolyn, I don’t think we would be attracted to each other at all. Ron hates cooking, and only wants to be left alone to play on his computer. In spite of what he claimed in marriage counseling, he really doesn’t want to do anything with me. Although he complains that he doesn’t want to do anything because we’re still in debt, there are a million free or super cheap things to do around here, and he has no interest in any of them.

I know that the kindest, most loving thing that I can do for my husband is to let him go. Sometimes, that’s all a person can do.

“Someday I’m gonna run across your mind
Don’t worry, I’ll be fine
I’m gonna be alright
While you’re sleeping with your pride
Wishing I could hold you tight
I’ll be over you
And on with my life”

 

As Long As I’m A Ghost That You Can See

In a little over three weeks, Ron and I will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. When we were trying to figure out what day we should go out to dinner, we joked that part of why we’ve stayed together this long is plain inertia. There have been times when we’ve both wanted to leave, but just never got around to it by the time things got better. I don’t really consider that commitment…it’s more laziness than anything else.

This has been a really tough year; last April, we were pretty much set on divorce, but Aubrey talked us into marriage counseling, where we we’ve been able to work some things through. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go to our appointment this month because that was right during my week of the norovirus. I thought out appointment was on Thursday, but it turned out to be on Tuesday. Instead of telling me, Ron just went by himself. I don’t know what went on during that appointment, but since that point, I’ve really been struggling to not say, “Fuck you, I’m outta here.”

THAT is the commitment side of staying together this long. It’s sticking together through the “fuck you” days, no matter what. The problem is I am really, really, really tired of there being more “fuck you” days than good days. Last night, I couldn’t sleep as I thought about how much I want to leave right now. It’s difficult to work through these days without a friend to talk me down from the cliff, but at least I have a therapist.

I know that at least a small part of my issue is that Ron’s behavior lately has been triggering my feelings from my first marriage. Ron’s not purposely abusive, but when he discounts my thoughts, feelings, and intentions, it brings up the same feelings as when my first husband would do similar things, but with a different intent. Duane MEANT for the things he said to hurt. Ron isn’t trying to hurt me, and I don’t think he’s aware of how much his actions/reactions do hurt. I am so incredibly tired of constantly defending myself against his unpurposeful attacks.

I think that marital harmony is like an emotion bank. Marriage has its ups and downs, but what makes it worth it is that during the ups, the bank gets stocked with positive emotions that help to balance out the negative ones that come along later on. Our problem is that our marital emotion bank is overdrawn. There hasn’t been anything positive to fill it, so all these negative things have nothing to balance them. When that happens with a single person, they end up with depression. When it happens with married people, they tend to end up divorced…or someone has an affair in an effort to stock up their personal emotion bank with positive feelings. Most people don’t stop to think that an affair will cause a serious overdraft; if they do think about it, but have gone too long without positive feelings, they tend to do it anyway.

I am too tired to have an affair, and Ron is too moral. I don’t think that’s ever been a worry for us. For Ron, the idea of dating, having to make conversation, talking about himself and listening to someone talk about themselves is pure torture. Just the thought makes him practically break out in hives. He said the hardest part would be having to spend money on someone; paying for dinner is anathema to him.

The thing of it is that neither of us is happy. I’m trying (really!) to make myself happy, but every thing that I do to work on that is cause for Ron to denigrate my actions, which of course makes me resent him. We’re not getting out of debt fast enough for him, so he resents me. With Ron, everything comes down to money. Because things need to be done around the house, we clash constantly over it. Yesterday was kind of the last straw when he made the comment that I should have married someone like my friend Leigh’s husband, Bill. He said that my passion for home improvement is something that he couldn’t care less about. I said that his passion for computer games is something that I couldn’t care less about. It seems that we just can’t quite find any common ground to share…we don’t like doing any of the same things.

Lack of common ground is usually balanced out by love and affection for the person themselves…who they are, not what they do. I think it also requires mutual respect. I truly believe that Ron wants (or at least WANTED) to feel love and affection, but just plain can’t. They are emotions that he can’t feel, or can’t recognize when he does feel them. So here we are in a marriage bereft of love and affection, and unfortunately lacking in respect. This isn’t the kind of marriage that I want.

My therapist and I have spent a lot of time talking about how there are no guarantees. Ron is kind and caring, moral, humorous, and a good person. I know that if I were to leave, there would be no guarantee that I would ever find someone with the same qualities. However, I am starting to believe that the lack of a guarantee doesn’t matter, because at least there would be hope that I might find someone who loves me; even if I didn’t, well…at least there wouldn’t be the disappointment of wanting love from my husband and not getting it. Hope vs. disappointment. Hm…

For better or for worse, we are stuck together by “for poorer.” Until we’re out of debt, neither of us will go anywhere, as we know it would take much longer to get out of debt if we were paying for two separate households. For the time being, I will sleep on my edge of the bed and he will sleep on his. I can move past the disappointment because after facing it for a long enough time, it just becomes the way it is. “It is what it is.”

I know that going through a divorce is much like dealing with the death of a person. One has to grieve the loss of the relationship in order to move on. I can say that I’ve experienced all seven stages of grief in the last year. I’m now in acceptance. “It is what it is.”

This process is different than my last two experiences. We don’t hate each other; no one’s cheated; there’s no physical violence or emotional abuse. We’re just not happy, and he doesn’t love me. “It is what it is.”

What to do now? Get out of debt as fast as possible. Keep going to marriage counseling so we don’t kill each other in the process. Continue to clear out my things and purge, purge, purge. Be responsible for my own happiness, in spite of his attacks and sabotage. Take it one day at a time, but start planning for the future.

“I never thought I could act this way
And I’ve got to say that I just don’t get it.
I don’t know where we went wrong
But the feeling’s gone and I just can’t get it back.”

Eat For Two

This week I had norovirus. It’s a highly contagious intestinal version of a cold, marked by headache, body aches, fever, nausea, and other intestinal distress. While my first day consisted of “other intestinal distress,” about twelve hours later was when the nausea started. My husband banished me to sleep on the sofa because he had to go to bed and I couldn’t sleep, not to mention that he’s not vaccinated against norovirus.

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Aubrey was wonderful and brought me ginger ale, covered me up, watched Project Runway with me, and kept me company until I sent her to bed. Before she left the room, though, I thanked her for taking care of me, and she said she knows just how it feels to be sick and not able to get up. I said I worry that she’ll get this nasty bug, because she lost so much weight (even 5 lbs is 5% of her body weight) when she had the flu two weeks ago. That got us talking about the current whooping cough epidemic and how I’m so glad her vaccinations are current. Then I told her about remembering sitting in the bathroom with Matt for hours with the hot water running in the shower, just so he could breathe. He was about four years old at the time.

This, of course, led us down memory lane to when I was terrified that she was going to die from pneumonia when she was 18 months old. Up until she was 17 months old, she was a happy, chubby, waddling toddler with a round face and pink cheeks…until she came down with rotavirus. Within days, she’d lost so much weight, she went down a size in diapers. Two weeks after finally recovering from the rotavirus, she got RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) which turned quickly into pneumonia.

I remember waking up that night to her coughing because it sounded weird…more wheezy than it had. In that particular house, my bedroom was an added on porch, but no one ever bothered to wall in the original bedroom that overlooked it, so there was a glass door and a large window with no glass in our common wall. Thank goodness, because I might not have heard her, otherwise.

I immediately took her in the bathroom and turned on the hot water, but even the steam wasn’t helping. Idiotically, I waited until 8:30 am so I could call her pediatrician instead of taking her to the ER. We didn’t have insurance, and her father didn’t want to deal with the massive ER charges. Meanwhile, I watched as her lips and fingernails began to get a bluish tint, which I knew meant she wasn’t getting enough oxygen. Of course, as soon as I called the pediatrician, they told me to take her to the hospital IMMEDIATELY.

Once we were there, they rushed her to the back and gave her a ventolin breathing treatment and oxygen. Eventually she pinked back up, and after giving us a prescription for antibiotics, they sent her home since she was stable. It took her weeks before she was really better, and she lost all of her baby fat. She never gained it back, and it was years before she became her bubbly, vibrant self again.

I always worry about her lack of extraneous body fat. She is all muscle, so she won’t immediately starve, but I would still feel better if she had even a tiny fat store. Most women (even I am guilty) joke how lovely it would be to eat all they want and never gain an ounce. I know that Aubrey wishes she would gain even a little weight. Lately she’s been wolfing down half a pound of cheese a day in an effort to gain, but until ice cream weather rolls around (which is April down here), she can’t possibly eat enough calories, and it’s too cold for Sonic slushies, so even her normal caloric filler is out. She is the only person I know who actually NEEDS to eat candy bars. For anyone who is thinking that maybe protein would be better, she has steak every night that she works, usually filet mignon or picahna, which has a high amount of fat.

People always tell her to enjoy it while she can, because her metabolism will change, but her father’s side are all skinny, including her paternal grandmother. She’s looking forward to it slowing down because then she might be able to dress in women’s clothes instead of kid’s clothes. I don’t know how her body will react to being pregnant (in the far distant future). I remember my sister-in-law didn’t show until her last month, whereas I was huge at six weeks with Matt, and at three months with Aubrey.

Meanwhile, all I can do is minimize her chance of getting norovirus by reminding her and Ron to wash their hands, and by washing my hands as much as possible. I didn’t cook for the three days I was sick, or for the two days after it, either. It seems like it may have passed through our house with Ron and Aubrey unscathed, mainly because I am a major germaphobe and wash my hands constantly. I can only hope.

“Breathe for two…”

It’s Always Darkest Before The Dawn

It is a silent Sunday morning, when even the sun has sense enough to still be asleep. I’ve been awake since 4:30am; I laid in my bed and listened to music until I finally accepted that going back to sleep just wasn’t going to happen. I decided to lie on my sofa instead and read the new book that I picked up from the library yesterday, called Visiting Life by Bridget Kinsella.

I love when a book appears by surprise and becomes a found treasure. I was on the digital catalog and searching for Sophie Kinsella. I hadn’t read anything by her since Shopaholic And Sister, and I wanted to see if she had anything new. I love our library system’s digital catalog. Not only can I see every book in the system (as opposed to the olden days when one could only check out a book directly from the library where the book resided), I can place holds and request transfers. Books come from all over the city to my little neighborhood library, then wait patiently on the shelf for me to come by and check them out. Back to Kinsella…the other lovely thing about our catalog is that it performs a fuzzy search, meaning it also shows things that it thinks I might possibly have meant to type; there at the bottom of my search list was a summary of Bridget Kinsella’s non-fiction book about falling in love with a man in prison for life for murdering a drug dealing teenager. It sounded fascinating, and I was thrilled to find it an even more interesting read.

I checked it out yesterday as part of my errands that we call “The Festival of Returns.” I am a bulimic shopper; I binge buy and then have to take things back. A few items were from Christmas that didn’t fit Ron, but the rest were just random things. Although I was somewhat tired and more than a little sore, I was bound and determined to get them done yesterday, as it is one of the last few things between me and a clean living room.

When I woke up last Thursday morning, I felt energetic and nothing hurt too badly. I made a coffee cake, did a large load of dishes, had Aubrey help with getting all the Christmas stuff out to the shed, and even managed to get in a blog post (on one of my other blogs). I was on the go from early morning to early evening, and still felt pretty good, although by then I was tired. I had hoped that I might avoid the vicious payback that I knew was likely coming; unfortunately, I woke up Friday in excruciating pain and was so exhausted, I slept most of the day. Such are the perils of pushing it when one has fibromyalgia. However, Saturday was bearable, hence the second push.

Today I am paying for yesterday’s activities. I even missed my husband’s office holiday party (I was OBVIOUSLY devasted!), as I got home from the errands and collapsed on our bed. My husband was sweet enough to rub my entire back, neck, and shoulders with Pennsaid and I passed out. I woke up long enough to take my meds and go back to sleep…until 4:30 am, that is.

It’s freezing cold outside (45 degrees, but feels like 37 according to weather.com), so I decided to move from the living room to my office. Now I am curled up on my daybed wrapped in my denim quilt, with a roaring fire next to me, my excellent book, and a cup of hot cinnamon tea. I can hear the cat snoring in the living room and the whipping of the flames. I feel incredibly peaceful at this particular moment.

It’s important to find comfort in simple pleasures…tea, a fire, a quilt, a good book. Any one of the things alone is comforting, but to have them all together is decadent.

In a little while, my house will wake up and I will take a shower and get ready to have lunch with my mom, step-dad, and my son. In spite of every joint screaming in agony, I haven’t had lunch with my family in a while and I don’t want to miss out. Today is also the day that we are clearing out Aubrey’s shed so we can assess if there is any mouse damage to any of her boxes. Since getting her shed stacked neatly is pivotal to my office being cleared out in preparation for paint, shelf installation, and baseboard installation, I can’t put that off.

As I’m typing, the fire, tea, and quilt are warming me inside and out, and I can feel my eyes drooping…maybe I’ll get a few extra minutes of sleep after all.

“but I like to keep some things to myself…”

Mellow Yellow

Back in the days before GF (gluten free), once a year at Christmas, I would make baklava. If you’ve ever made baklava, then you know why I only did it once a year. For those of you who haven’t, it is a royal pain in the ass. It requires octopus like movements, which is difficult when one only has two arms. I’d always recruit a family member with the promises of extra pieces…it was the only way to get someone to agree to help me.

Working with phyllo dough (pastry sheets) means you have to work fast, keep it covered with a damp towel, and use a ridiculous amount of melted butter on each sheet. I always did six layers of dough, a row of filling (chopped walnuts, sugar, and spices), another six layers of dough, another row of filling, and a final six layers of dough. After my first year of trying to fit a too large sheet onto a too small cookie pan, I figured out how to trim the edges with a pizza cutter before I got started. Eventually I bought a bigger pan, but it still required some trimming. I wish that cookie pan manufacturers and pastry sheet manufacturers would cooperate and come up with a regulation size.

After assembling it, my back would be killing me, but that’s the hard part.  Next is slicing it into the pretty diamond shapes. Yes, you slice it BEFORE you bake it. After that, it gets baked, and once it’s done, it’s smothered in a rich honey, lemon, and spice syrup. Be sure to pour COLD syrup over the HOT pastry!!! That means make your syrup ahead of time. Then the pastry has to sit until it’s cool (and if you can really resist, leave it overnight), but you’ll find that with cold over hot, the pastry is still crispy instead of being super gooey.

Now that we’re gluten free though, it definitely doesn’t seem worth the effort to make the pastry from scratch. Instead, I make lemon curd…imagine a super tart, cornstarch free pie filling, and you’ve almost got it. I used to make tartlets filled with lemon curd with the leftover phyllo dough; now I use the curd in crepes and on scones. Yes, gluten free crepes are delicious, and so are gluten free scones! The crepes took some playing with before I finally got the consistency down right (they’d usually turn out more like pancakes…turns out I was using too many eggs and not enough milk…they require one egg and lots of milk), but the scones were fantastic on my first try. Of course, for the scones I had a recipe, and for the crepes, I was just making it up as I went. It’s always best to use someone else’s wheel if you can!

Perfect!

Perfect!

I first had lemon curd crepes with fresh strawberry topping at the Holiday Chalet in Denver, Co. Crystal, the owner, made them on our first morning there and they were amazing!! Unfortunately, she disappeared the next day, leaving her non-English speaking boyfriend to do the cooking. He didn’t know how to make crepes, and when I explained that it was like a very thin pancake, he nodded and came back with a pancake that was an inch and a half thick. Maybe he thought I meant a very thin birthday cake? Crystal is an excellent cook, and if you’re adventurous, I’d recommend the Holiday Chalet. My husband refuses to stay there ever again because it’s in a slightly dicey area of downtown, and we heard several gunshots on our first night there. Aubrey loved it, especially since she slept in the sun room, with three walls of windows and french doors into the main room. I loved the giant murphy bed! It’s extremely convenient to the Botanical Garden (the main one) and the museums. It’s old and a little tatty, but I like that sort of thing.

Anyway, after trying Crystal’s lemon curd, I researched and found the recipe I still use. It’s mouth twistingly tart and oh so delicious.

Here are links to the recipes and B&B mentioned above:

Lemon Curd

I make it exactly as the recipe is written, which is really rare for me. You’ll feel it start to thicken; as you stir, there will be more resistance. Be sure to have it at the lowest heat setting that will keep it boiling. If it’s too high, the butter and sugar will scorch and it’s inedible. Also, stir with a whisk from the time you turn on the heat until you turn off the heat, and then move the pan from the hot burner. Don’t stop stirring!

Baklava

I suggest going much lighter on the cloves and substitute cinnamon, but I’m not a huge fan of cloves. I don’t know if I’m just highly sensitive to the taste, but for me, a little goes a looooooong way. I literally use about half a pinch.

Gluten Free Crepes

Follow the recipe on the back of the box for pancakes, but use one egg and enough milk to make it thin and runny, but not watery. Sorry, but I never measure…I’ll make some this week and update the post when I have the right amounts! Oh, and I always add a teaspoon (or so) of vanilla and a very liberal amount of cinnamon.

Gluten Free Scones

I never add the fruit or nutmeg, and they look/feel/taste like homemade biscuits. They are fluffy and crunchy!

Holiday Chalet

I’d be sure to ask if Crystal will be there on the days that you want to stay. Seriously, her boyfriend (husband?) cannot cook. Be sure to check out her boutique and for goodness’ sake, eat the brownies. They are hellishly good!